I skipped sending out this newsletter last weekend because I had just come back from a vacation and because I was working and also feeling a bit overwhelmed and also it’s Pesach. Now I’m back in my routine and it’s still Pesach but I will get to eat bread this weekend, finally, and I am very much looking forward to that.
Passover is an important holiday to me — the one closest to my birthday and one of the most important holidays, period, but also one that manages to be important without being wholly miserable (which, I’m sorry, is exactly what Yom Kippur is, A MISERY), and also one that is as much about joy as it is about suffering and I like that nuance. Not many of my close friends are Jewish in D.C. but we typically hold a large seder and invite everyone and I get to explain Hebrew to a group of people who have no idea what’s going on and frankly it’s great. But we didn’t have a big seder this year, we had a teeny tiny one. No afikomen, no multi-hour event. It felt strange to do but there really wasn’t any way around it — because work, because schedules, because everything just feels off right now — and ultimately I was glad we kept it minimal.
Now it’s over and April is nearly over and I’m blue about it. April is supposed to be the cruelest month and for me it actually is, since I have conflicted feelings about my birthday, and also it feels like a time when shit hits the fan? That has absolutely happened this year and it definitely turned my “vacation” into not a vacation at all! But that’s in the past now and it’s nearly May which means it’s nearly summer, my absolute least favorite time and coincidentally everyone else’s favorite time. One of my favorite social experiments is documenting how much summer-lovers want their hatred of winter tolerated and accounted for while simultaneously deriding every person who hates summer as a bundle of fun-hating negativity. (I am, for the record, very pale and prone to both severe sunburn and also nausea while dehydrated, but go off I guess!) Anyways, D.C. summer is agony and it is imminent, I am so sorry in advance about my mood.
But back to Pesach. One of my maybe most unpopular thoughts is that it’s good to give things up and that a fundamental thing people miss about religion is that it offers the opportunity to routinely give things up in a way that is healthy, contained, and intentional. My defining childhood memory of my father is when I split open my toe on the edge of a desk and he chose to douse it with alcohol instead of hydrogen peroxide while pointedly telling me over my yowls that things are only working if they hurt. I’m sure that idea can be deeply misused but I also think it can be useful if you’re responsible with it. (No pain, no gain, etc.) So I don’t eat things that rise during Pesach and I don’t eat anything at all on Yom Kippur, because I think it’s good to have to think a bit more carefully about the things we have, when we so easily might not have them.
And to a slightly different end, I also think everything all the time isn’t good, especially as the sort of person who absolutely wants everything all the time. This newsletter is a great example — it was daily when it was born and it was jam-packed with too many things and had a readership of less than 10 people. What is it now? I don’t really know, mostly because it keeps changing along with my own life and times and reality. That reality is going busier and also more focused, which hurts a lot in that I’m losing large parts of the everything that I want all the time. But I also think it’s not healthy. And what’s the point of everything if you’re not doing a good job, when you could just have some things and do a great job?
That’s a really long way of saying I’m cutting back parts of this newsletter, just like I’m cutting back parts of my life. It’s all in that painful restructuring phase that I hate, because I don’t like growth and I don’t like change. But it’s a new year for me personally, an April baby, and so here we go, again.
“Someone is always trying to kill you.” Could “Heartland visas” reduce geographic inequality? What it means to have a “good” passport. Flying while transgender — specifically, while non-binary. Kaveh Akbar’s “The Palace” is finally here. A very normal Carmen Maria Machado interview. This deep dive into what’s happening in Waco is fascinating. Moving back to West Virginia, in fiction and in life. Houston has something to say to Democrats. After nearly 30 years and eyeing his presidential campaign, Joe Biden finally called Anita Hill — who says he didn’t even really apologize.
Me: Puerto Rico is caught between its renewable dreams and fossil fuels. Minnesota’s radical, youth-driven Green New Deal. Despite bipartisan uproar over offshore drilling, coastal Republicans (and Angus King) voted to confirm David Bernhardt. Some Democratic 2020 contenders want a debate solely focused on climate change. Opposition to offshore drilling in South Carolina offered an opening to 2020 Democratic presidential contenders (more on that below).
Pruitt and Zinke: from Washington back to industry. Iowa’s quiet water crisis. Scandals are mounting under Bernhardt at Interior. The department has also sidelined offshore drilling plans amid legal setbacks, bipartisan coastal uproar, and growing attention from 2020 contenders.
Elsewhere: What remains of Bears Ears. Toxic chemicals are becoming a big post-disaster problem. In Clarkston, Georgia, a growing conversation about “climate refugees.” Life and death in a medieval Polish forest. One of the bleaker interviews you’ll read. How we lost consensus on global warming. An Alabama power plant says it spilled 700 gallons of chemicals just before a mass fish kill. Know your plastics.
Spoken & Written
“It no longer seems rational to assume that humanity, encountering an existential threat, will behave rationally.” — Nathaniel Rich
My bffl made me a matzo lasagna dinner for a belated birthday dinner and it was shockingly excellent?? Recipe here. (She cooks things professionally so yours may be less excellent, as was mine, but I still believe in you.)
I’ve been drowning in poetry lately and I keep thinking about this Ilya Kaminsky poem.